Ten Essentials in the Form

Postby Michael » Mon Aug 18, 2003 5:55 pm

Hello psalchemist,

If you are not "suspended from above", one doesn't have to worry about moving the chi. If the physical requirements are not present the use of chi is limited.
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Aug 18, 2003 6:19 pm

Greetings Michael,

Point well taken, all three are important. I am hoping to gain some specific insight on how these elements would co-operate together in a harmonious manner.

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Postby tai1chi » Mon Aug 18, 2003 7:36 pm

Hi Psalchemist,

"I am hoping to gain some specific insight on how these elements would co-operate together in a harmonious manner."

Well, gravity affects the flow of fluids within the body, including the inner ear; and thus affects balance. Lengthening the spine aids in promoting freedom of movement, and thus decreases the need to rely on muscular strength --as oposed to the creation of jing. It helps to allow the pathways of and from the spine to remain 'unchinked.'

Probably others will have other specifics.

Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Aug 18, 2003 8:39 pm

Greetings Steve James,

You said,(on the merits of 'suspending the head').
<Well gravity affects the flow of fluids within the body, including the inner ear; and thus affects balance.>Steve James

I never knew that...Excellent, informative and helpful. That will definitely help me in a concrete manner in my form practice. Thank-you.

Also, you gave another great example,
<Lengthening the spine aids in promoting freedom of movement, and thus decreases the need to rely on muscular strength--as opposed to the creation of jing.>Steve James

Something else I was unaware of... are you refering to this process in the physical mobility sense or in the jin flow sense or both?

You continued,
<It helps to allow the pathways to and from the spine to remain 'unchinked'.>

I have heard of this theory within certain 'meditation in stillness' circles. Some yoga techniques, such as the Lotus position, seem to advocate the necessity for correct alignment of the spine and head, inducive for the flow of chi. Similar?

Thank-you for providing some specific pro's and con's on the subject of suspending the head'. I find that understanding the why's and why not's assists me in my memory. Image

Nice day!
Best regards,
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Aug 18, 2003 10:11 pm

Just one quick aside to all this, which by the way is a very fascinating post.
Until I started studying at a YCF center, I can honestly say I had never heard of "YCF's Ten Essentials".
No one had ever mentioned this list of "essentials" to me at either of the TCC schools I attended, yet I managed to reach at least a middling degree of skill at TCC despite this lack.
Most of YCF's "essentials" were brought up as points to be addressed during forms or sparring, but not in this ordered manner as a list of "essentials", and certainly not all schools agree on all ten of YCF's "essentials" as being... well... essential.
I can honestly say there was a surprise or two on the list for me when I first saw it and I still have a hard time with one or two, which I will not go into now or this won't be a "quick aside" any longer.
My training was strictly in the genre of "stand this way","raise your head top", "hold your neck this way", "tuck in your chin", "tounge on the roof of your mouth and relax your jaw", "sink your chi to the tan tien", "relax", "don't extend your knee beyond your toe", etc, etc, ad infinitum.
I'm not putting down YCF's ten essentials, for his style of TCC they are the guide, what I'm saying is that to me this list of ten essentials is another device to achieve a standard of movement/stillness that leads you to TCC, one of many devices that will lead you to this place but not by any stretch the only one.
Did YCF have this list of ten essentials to go by and that's what made him such a smashing martial artist? He most certainly did not. He compiled the list as it is, so he didn't have them in his early training. He learned these "essential" points as part of his verbal and hands on training under the tutelage of qualified masters, just like we all should.
Concentrate on the "essentials" during the form or sparring and you are effectively, in my humble opinion, negating the very idea of having them in the first place.
Isn't one aspect of any "essential" part of TCC to eliminate concentrating on any one thing to the detriment of others? To let your mind relax as well as your body and just go with the flow?
I have always believed that if I concentrate so hard on being just so, making my body and my mind adhere to a list of "esentials" and worrying unceasingly that I am meeting them, totally negates the entire idea of relaxing.
Once you've learned the "essentials" of TCC, you should just do them and not worry so much about them that they distract you from what TCC really is.
Just a thought.
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Postby Anderzander » Mon Aug 18, 2003 10:15 pm

Phew a good few things to follow up on here!

psalchemist - in your post on 08-15-2003 you got me mixed up at the end with 'Steve' - his post mentioned bagua.

Henceforth I shall always sign my name Stephen.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by psalchemist:
The 10 essential principles
The 5 elements (lower body)
The 8 bagua (upper body)
The 4 emptying and filling in cross- alignment
The 2 opening and closing
The 1 achieving meditation during movement

psalchemist - that is a big question and it depends upon where your development is up to. I said elsewhere that everyone has a different doorway into taiji - so your focus will be different too.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
Stephen, let me comment about one statement you made:

<<However what is difficult is stopping the body having hollows and protuberances. I still have elements of my posture that aren’t symmetrical and certain postures exasperate that.

I don't know how much of that is to do with either my own individual shortcomings or the posture in it's own right though?

It seems to be me.>>

I think that my general orientation towards the world is that knowledge is the key to everything and that, if one truly knows a principle, practicing it is not difficult. Because of this orientation, I believe I truly understand a principle only when I can consistently practice it despite the circumstances. I find that “exasperating” postures are the key to exposing situations where I need to deepen my understanding of a principle. In other words, I believe that in one sense, all the postures or more or less equally difficult, but that the difficulty is more apparent in some postures than in others.

Audi, I understand what you are saying - I think this is a tricky point.

I was describing opening and closing, and hollows and projections.

The root of the hollow/projection I was describing is some deep-rooted tension. Emotional tension. I guess it has been there for 30 years (I'm 32 Image)

The postures that exacerbate this tension, I feel, are not the key to exposing where I need to deepen my understanding of the principle of opening and closing - as that is already manifest.

The postures that exacerbate this tension, I feel, are the key to exposing where I need to deepen my understanding of the principle of having the body as one unit.

Understanding is a funny word in this context - we are talking about a deep-rooted change in physicality achieved through some powerful alchemy over a long period of time.

This is like the diamond body or Buddha mind in that they are something that is uncovered - not something that is developed.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
I strongly agree with your approach to the classics and like the way you put things. The only thing I might change in your formulation is that I do not think that the “few” or “few more” are things that are best thought of as being added to the “one thing,” but rather as constituting deeper aspects of the “one thing.”

Thanks Audi! We are thinking the same - I was describing a growing framework of knowledge.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Steve:
I think there will always be questions as to how to do "Fair Lady at Shuttles" and accord with the essential to keep the elbows dropped. Some styles literally keep the elbows down; others say this is completely wrong. The answer's probably somewhere in between. But, the "idea" of keeping the elbows down that, imo, must be maintained.
Similarly, in Needle at Sea Bottom, the head should still remain "as if suspended from above", yet it might not be in the same position as in Snake Creeps Down.

Hiya Steve,

I think the questions you have cited will only be valid whilst the practitioner’s ability remains at a certain level.

The first time my teacher demonstrated Fa Ching I remember he said there were three reactions – at first you don’t understand – then it’s interesting – then you can do it.

The sinking of the elbows is a definite feeling – and its function is connection. Once your body is connected and you are moving with energy the posture finds it’s own position.

"as if suspended from above" describes the feeling of the chi kung rising up the spine and supporting the skull. It is called raising the spirit – and for me it kills off my internal dialogue – things grow brighter as the peripheral vision opens up etc etc. So it is a description of an insubstantial energy lifting the skull.

I read the classics like this – I either don’t know what it is describing, its interesting because I have an idea about it……. – or I can do it. When you can do it there is no need for meticulous study of the phraseology etc – it is often obvious.

(I hope that doesn’t come across as rude!)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by psalchemist:
In general...Could you please provide some descriptions of the tangible(physical), and perhaps more intangible(other?) results of practicing Taijiquan while successfully implementing the ten essential principles.
Specifically...I have heard for example, that practicing Taijiquan correctly will lead to a 'good chi circulation'. What are some of the results of having 'good chi circulation'?
Here’s one:

When the ten essentials are manifested, and the chi is circulating, you will experience propelled movement.

You will be moving in a new way. You will move your attention and your body will follow with no effort on your part.

There is a zen phrase that goes – first the mountains are mountains, then they are something different, finally they are just mountains again.

When you experience propelled movement – there will be no confusion that something very different has occurred. Then you will become used to it – and it will become the norm.

Well – other posts to attend to now !

I just wanted to add – it’s a pleasure typing to you guys.


[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 08-18-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Aug 19, 2003 4:50 pm

Hello Stephen,

It has been a pleasure reading your posts. They are getting better and better. Much to ponder...I think partitioning this post might be a good idea...one question at a time.

I am curious about some unfamiliar references...

What are 'Diamond body' and 'Buddah mind'?

Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image

P.S. Sorry if I confounded your references of earlier posting.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-19-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Aug 20, 2003 10:07 pm

Thought it might be helpful if we had the Ten Essentials of YCF poster here.
This is supposed to be an excerpt from Yang Zhen Duo's book, "Yang Style Taijiquan", hopefully it is accurately reproduced, I cut and pasted from a website.

1) Straightening the Head
Stand straight and hold the head and neck naturally erect, with the mind concentrated on the top. Do not strain or be tense; otherwise, the blood and vital energy cannot circulate smoothly.
(2) Correct Position of Chest and Back
keep chest slightly inward, which will enable you to sink your breath to the dan tian (lower belly). Do not protrude your chest, otherwise you will feel uneasy in breathing and somewhat "top heavy". Great force can be launched from the spine only when you keep the vital energy in your lower belly.
(3) Relaxation of Waist
For the human body, the waist is the dominant part. When you relax the waist, your two feet will be strong enough to form a firm base. All the movements depend on the action of the waist, as the saying goes: "Vital force comes from the waist." Inaccurate movements in taijiquan stem from the erroneous actions of the waist.
(4) Solid and Empty Stance
It is of primary importance in taijiquan to distinguish between "Xu"(Empty) and "Shi" (Solid). If you shift the weight of the body on to the right leg, then the right leg is solidly planted on the ground and the left leg is in an empty stance. When your weight is on the left leg, then the left leg is firmly planted on the ground and the right leg is in an empty stance. Only in this way can you turn and move your body adroitly and without effort, otherwise you will be slow and clumsy in your movements and not able to remain stable and firm on your feet.
(5) Sinking of Shoulders and Elbows
Keep your shoulder in natural, relaxed position. If you lift your shoulders, the qi will rise with them, and the whole body will be without strength. You should also keep the elbows down, otherwise you will not be able to keep your shoulders relaxed and move your body with ease.
(6) Using the Mind Instead Of Force
Among people who practice taijiquan it is quite common to hear this comment: "That is entirely using the mind, not force." In practicing taijiquan, the whole body is relaxed, and there is not an iota of stiff or clumsy strength in the veins or joints to hinder the movement of the body. People may ask: How can one increase his strength without exercising force? According to traditional Chinese medicine, there is in the human body a system of pathways called jingluo (or meridian) which link the viscera with different parts of the body, making the human body an integrated whole. If the jingluo is not impeded, then the vital energy will circulate in the body unobstructed. But if the jingluo is filled with stiff strength, the vital energy will not be able to circulate and consequently the body cannot move with ease. One should therefore use the mind instead of force, so that vital energy will follow in the wake of the mind or consciousness and circulate all over the body. Through persistent practice one will be able to have genuine internal force. This is what Taijiquan experts call "Lithe in appearance, but powerful in essence."
A master of Taijiquan has arms which are as strong as steel rods wrapped in cotton, with immense power concealed therein. Boxers of the "Outer School" ( a branch of wushu with emphasis on attack, as opposed to the "Inner School" which places the emphasis on defense) look powerful when they exert force, but when they cease to do so, the power no longer exists. So it is merely a kind of superficial force.
(7) Coordination of Upper and Lower Parts
According to the theory of taijiquan the root is in the feet, the force is launched through the legs: controlled by the waist, and expressed by the fingers; the feet, the legs and the waist form a harmonious whole. When the hands, the waist and the legs move, the eyes should follow their movements.This is what is meant by coordination of the upper and lower parts. If any one part should cease to move, then the movements will be disconnected and fall into disarray.
(8) Harmony Between the Internal and External Parts
In practicing taijiquan, the focus is on the mind and consciousness. Hence the saying: "The mind is the commander, and the body is subservient to it." With the tranquility of the mind, the movements will be gentle and graceful. As far as the "frame" is concerned, there are only the Xu (empty), shi (solid), kai (open) and he (close). Kai not only means opening the four limbs but the mind as well, and he means closing the mind along with the four limbs. Perfection is achieved when one unifies the two and harmonizes the internal and external parts into a complete whole.
(9) Importance of Continuity
In the case of the "Outer School" (which emphasizes attack) of boxing, the strength one exerts is stiff and the movements are not continuous,but are sometimes made off and on, which leave openings the opponent may take advantage of. In taijiquan, one focuses the attention on the mind instead of force, and the movements from beginning to end are continuous and in an endless circle, just "like a river which flows on and on without end" or "like reeling the silk thread off cocoons."
(10) Tranquility in Movement
In the case of the "Outer School" of boxing, the emphasis is on leaping, bouncing, punching and the exertion of force, and so one often gasps for breath after practicing. But in taijiquan, the movement is blended with tranquility, and while performing the movements, one maintains tranquility of mind. In practicing the "frame," the slower the movement, the better the results. This is because when the movements are slow, one can take deep breath and sink it to the dan tian. It has a soothing effect on the body and mind.
Learners of taijiquan will get a better understanding of all this through careful study and persistent practice.

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Postby psalchemist » Wed Aug 20, 2003 10:54 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

I think it was a FINE idea to supply a list of the 10 essential principles. Image I personally was in search of that type of list and description, and I am sure other students will appreciate it greatly as well.

Many thanks,
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Aug 21, 2003 2:53 am

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Postby psalchemist » Thu Aug 21, 2003 3:53 pm

Greetings Jerry Karin,

Thank-you for providing the Yang Family Style theory and descriptions of the 10 Essential Principles. I find Yang Family Style teachings to be especially well explained,direct,easy to grasp the basic meaning of as well as enjoyable to read.

I have already glanced through portions of this link before, a couple of months ago, and alot of the information seems to have stuck in my head. That's good. I guess now is the right time for me to really work on the 10 essential principles(as was advised to me previously). I'm at the stage where my form has become very disjointed and I know I have a big job ahead of me right now, figuring it all out and trying to put it back together again. That's good too. After all it is only a temporary state of confusion. Image

It was said in posts above that there are different doorways into understanding...I agree completely. I tried different ways to 'connect' with the ten principles, but was not able to do much with it until I discovered the importance of the elbows!

Recently there has been discussion about 'connecting with the elbows'. I did not have any experience with this idea of 'connection through the elbows', but this seems to be the 'doorway' for me, into the 10 essentials.

Is it possible that the other elements of the Principles fall into place more easily when there is a connection of the elbows to the ground?

This morning I decided I would just stand in the opening position (with the palms facing the ground)and focus solely on the ten principles, just in stillness, without trying to move. I stood there for awhile, just trying to implement these essentials, adjusting here and there.

When I focused my mind on connecting the elbows with the ground, I had a very moving experience. I felt an actual Physical connection, like a line pulling from the fingertip(s?) through the underbelly of my forearm to my elbow (literally), and the line continued from the elbow to the ground(abstractly), but definitely pulling down.

Only in my left arm though-nothing really in my right! Why would I connect only with one arm, and why would it be the left? I have heard of meridians a little, but would be interested to know which meridian this would be , or precisely what this meridian does/controls???

Following this 'connection' came a deep(I mean deep) meditational feeling. I meditate when I feel the need, so am familiar with the sensation, but this was much stronger than any other meditation I have experienced before...WoW! And the effects of it were not only powerfull, but extremely long lasting-( I was in a total daze for an hour afterwards)-That was after recovering from the initial overwhelming feeling of being in extremely high altitude.

That must be where the expression 'to lose ones mind' must surely originate from. Image
My mind was so 'lost' that I tried desperately to get it back, for fear I was stuck in that state. But try as I might I could not regain my 'regular faculties'. At first I thought I would not be able to even function the way I was feeling, but after the initial shock I realized this is probably the state we are trying to acheive to practice the form.

Well, I guess I just wanted to share the importance that the elbows have now taken on,for me, and the great importance I now feel of the 10 essential principles. I have a better understanding that the physical positioning has a great importance in acheiving the right(meditational) mind-set.

What a great discovery today.

I am wondering if this is a state we should maintain throughout the day, or if that would be 'too much'. For example; If I repeat this process every hour, then I should be in a constant state of meditation.
What is the experience of others about this? To meditate constantly, or only when we feel the need to?

Well, I'm off to practice the 10 essentials principles now...

Thanks All for the various pieces of information leading to my discovery,
I am grateful,
Best regards,

P.S. I just realized, I must already be reaping some type of benefit from this meditation...
I usually express my thoughts on paper before I can post, and then transcribe it with minor corrections. Usually my thoughts are too incoherant to write a post directly on the keyboard. This post however, although I am not sure if it is really any more understandable, was written directly, without previous thought or struggle. Amazing, for me, really. It's always uplifting to have instant results!


[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-21-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Aug 21, 2003 7:41 pm

I can only say that I have heard others describe this feeling, I have not felt anything like this myself.
My experience has been more a general feeling of well-being and agility, like I have suddenly lost about twenty years of aging and can move effortlessly in any way I choose.
I have re-acquainted myself with this in the last couple of years, I lost it for a while and needed to get it back.
I do feel a connection with the ground, like there's a pole coming out of my... well... hind end's opening (hope that's clear enough) that goes right to the center of the earth that is holding me there, but allowing me to turn easily around it and it follows me everywhere I go.
I have had students and fellow practicioners relate different feelings, such as you describe, of flying, hovering, that kind of thing. I don't get that, I get almost the opposite feeling, one of being connected to the earth by a strong pull, yet still light and agile.
That said, I have no idea what any of it means. If anyone else has a theory I'd like to hear it.
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Postby Michael » Thu Aug 21, 2003 9:24 pm


I have the same feeling of connection that you describe but consistant only if my practice is as well. However the locale of the feeling is not the oriface for me but what is described as the perineum---a little farther forward, from where it flows to the floor.


I understand the feeling you describe with the arms. My arms will feel a "floating" (a very BAD description) and a "heavy" feeling depending if it (they) are moving up or down, in or out. ALL connected. This is from intent as far as I can tell, and from the lifting of the crown and deep rooting at the same time.

Try 15 to 20 minutes of sitting meditation (inactive mind) before doing a set and buckle up.
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Aug 21, 2003 10:15 pm

Wushuer,Michael and All,

Thanks, both, for sharing your experience. Wushuer,it does sound like we have had opposite type experiences. I have not yet felt any particularly 'connected' feeling with the ground in any consistent way. I can 'sink' my foot 'into' the ground, but I am not sure that is the same thing as 'connecting'. I have not yet discovered the feeling of connecting with my 'axis' yet either.

Wushuer, you used the terms flying and hovering. I'm not sure I would employ those words to describe the sensation I felt. Obviously I have not conveyed sufficiently the feeling of the experience. Let me try again in more detail this time.

Standing still, in the commencing posture at the end of the chih shih, when the palms of the hands face the ground: The elbows are set 'just right', the armpits are open, the head is suspended, the waist is relaxed.

I too felt a pole type sensation extending from ground to elbow( in a really abstract sense), then the continuation of the feeling going across the underbelly of the arm-to reach the fingertip(s) was more like a cord and much more of a physical sensation, I guess similar to a tendon pulling? Together it made the shape of an L: the fingertips and ground being the extremities and the elbow being the angle they connect at.

I guess if I would have tried it myself,( to connect to the ground), I would have tried directly through the hands. It never would have occured to me to go through the elbows. Until Taijiquan my elbows were never given a second thought.

The connection between hand(s) and ground preceded the feeling in the head.

When I said altitude, I was just assuming others would understand what I meant, let me re-explain...

It reminds me of the effects one feels when in an airplane at high altitudes. The head 'fills up', the sinus cavities 'stuff up', the ears'block up', there seems to be a type of (barometric)-(external/internal) pressure in the whole head. None of this is unpleasant, it just feels 'full'. My head still feels full from this morning, however, most of the euphoria has slipped away now. Michael, as you said it seems to last a very long time.

Also, I felt a peculiar but very distinct feeling...It gave the impression that there was a flat 2" band across the top of my head, which reached from the front of the top of my head(above the forehead, and descended over the radius of my skull , down the back of my head to reach the nape of my neck. There was also a second similar flat band crossing the back of my head horizontally from ear to ear. Again, not unpleasant, just an awareness of something.

Michael, you are definitely correct about the powerful nature as well. For the first 15-20 minutes, I found it completely impossible to think! I was aware that I could not think(even if I tried). My head is still reeling from the experience. I think I'll wait 'till tomorrow to try it again. It was very uplifting though, If I was flying, it was in attitude rather than altitude, in intention, perhaps.

Thanks for the feedback!
Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Aug 22, 2003 9:20 am

Hiya Guys

From the words I would relate what wushuer said to sinking the chi (not just the body) - which has the beneficial result of concentrating the spirit and forms part of central equilirium.

Then it sounds like psalchemist, you've raised your chi kung to your head. I would guess dropping/sinking the elbows to the floor facilitated the sinking of your shoulders (kind of like pulling them down) - this would open your neck and any chi kung you'd made could go into your head.

That is part of raising the spirit and is why it killed off your internal dialouge.

What I would advice is that - whilst fun Image don't let it get stuck in your head. We need an insubstantial energy in our head - not it stuffed with chi kung...lol

So when you get there - put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and sink downwards from that point. Relax your breath. Imagine something running down your throat, then sink your chest, release your solar plexus and look for a vast deep feeling below your stomach.

That way you will still have all the power of the experience but it wont feel so much like a dodgy airplane ride Image

In fact if you can 'drop' your pirenium on the floor as we described before at the same time as lifting your crown - you will be on the way to having taiji's light and heavy.

splitting your attention between these two will also help to reduce over stuffing of your head)

Which is what it sounds like Michael is starting to describe. Propelled movement. When the body is sunk, the attention is concentrated (that is the bit that takes regular practice to build and goes if you don't) and the chi kung sunk and gently lifted - bingo propelled movement is on it's way Image

I hope that helps somebody.


Well done - you found your doorway - keep going.
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